CENTRAL West put a stop to NSW Country Rugby Union juggernaut Newcastle Hunter on Sunday, claiming the 2014 Caldwell Cup in convincing style.
After Central West jumped to a 21-0 lead in less than 25 minutes in the final, it was going to be tough for the six-time defending champions to mount a comeback.
The Blue Bulls went on with the job to collect a 36-14 win at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium.
Central West coach Matt McRobert described the win as “magic”.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort in to this,” McRobert said.
“Three years ago we were at the bottom of the Richardson Shield in sixth place and we had to work our way back up. We won the Richardson Shield last year and to win our first crack at the Caldwell Cup in a while, this year is a dream come true.”
Newcastle Hunter coach Daniel Beckett could not have asked more of his players.
“We’re still a good side even though it looks like we got pumped today,” he said.
“It’s just one of those things. It’s rugby. It’s life.
“This group has had a lot of hurdles put in front of them and hoops to jump through and I don’t have any doubts about our quality but today we were just outplayed.
"If you’re fair dinkum about rugby you want to beat sides like Newcastle, so we owe them a debt of gratitude. To beat them convincingly in the final is just wonderful"
“Our strategy was spot on. We knew how we wanted to play and knew how they’d play. Central West probably lifted and did more than we thought they were going to and they deserved the win.
“We were always chasing them and I think, mentally, that was too much for us.”
The Blue Bulls certainly gave Newcastle Hunter plenty to chase early in the first half.
Three minutes had passed when Central West’s Mahe Fangupo crossed for the first try and it wasn’t much later when Scott Burgess made a brilliant inside run to cross for the Blue Bulls.
Central West found space down their right-hand edge and Burgess scored his second after being on the end of a string of clever passes from Phil Tonkin and Tom Joseph.
Known more recently for their great comebacks, Newcastle Hunter scored first in the second half through an under-the-posts try to Steve Lamont.
But when the golden boot of Burgess kicked a penalty goal to give Central West a 24-7 lead with 23 minutes remaining, the chance of Newcastle’s seventh-straight Caldwell Cup title looked shaky.
It all but became out of reach when player of the series, Filisone Pauta, crossed for another try to Central West.
A late converted try to Newcastle’s Cal McDonald saved face, but then the Blue Bulls managed to score on the buzzer.
McRobert said the win was years in the making.
“We thought about it a lot. We planned a lot and worked very hard for it. It paid dividends and it’s just magic. I’m so satisfied with what we’ve done,” McRobert said.
“We’re here because of teams like Newcastle. A dynasty like they’ve had gives teams something to look forward and aspire to. If you’re fair dinkum about rugby you want to beat sides like Newcastle, so we owe them a debt of gratitude. To beat them convincingly in the final is just wonderful.
Central West earned their place in the Caldwell Cup final by accounting for Illawarra 19-5 in Saturday’s semi-final.
The boot of Burgess was telling in the semi-final with Central West and Illawarra scoring a try each, but Burgess nailed one conversion and four penalties to push the Bulls to the win.
CENTRAL WEST 36 (Scott Burgess 2, Mahe Fangupo, Filisone Pauta tries; Scott Burgess 4 conv, penalty goal) def NEWCASTLE HUNTER 14 (Steve Lamont, Cal McDonald tries; Brendan Holliday 2 convs).